Thursday, May 28, 2015

Frozen Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Balls

My Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Recipe variation!  My family loves granola bars.  I started making homemade granola bars after my first was born and became addicted to having something healthy, filling and easy always on hand, especially in those first 2 years of motherhood when my thyroid which was hypo since I was 15 turned for the worse which I later found out was Hashimotos probably following Post Partum Thyroiditis.  (The endocrinologist I saw at that time only tried to give me a heavy duty anti depressant when I asked her if my symptoms were related to my thyroid, she laughed, said no gave me the prescription and I asked if that medication would be bad for my daughter whom was still nursing and she said "oh, she's starting to get active and mobile so if anything it will be good for her too...if she gets any from your breastmilk it will just help her be more calm."  Thank goodness for a caring pharmacist who was friendly at our neighborhood pharmacy.  He knew me from when I would pick up my levothyroxine and when I brought him that prescription he looked alarmed and cautiously commented "this is a pretty serious medication for major depression, what was this prescribed for? You just don't seem like....well...." I said I had checked off the box on my questionair about getting anxious and that I thought it was my thyroid because it wasn't always but I was getting anxiety attacks from time to time.  I could see how conflicted he looked and like he had a lot he wanted to say but had to be careful what he did say..,.do after some facial contortions he said "here's the prescription but do yourself a favor.  Don't take it until you read about ALL the side effects and decide if it really makes sense for you and if the benefits will outweigh the risks and side effects."  Well I wasn't even halfway through the known common side effects when I realized the side effects were worse than dealing with periodic anxiety.  I later moved and found a new endocrinologist who said at that time I was suffering Post Partum Thyroiditis and that my tiny dose of levothyroxine was equivalent to taking M&Ms and he named every symptom I had dealt with (including the periodic anxiety) like he was reading my mind! I didn't even have to explain.  He knew his stuff.  Anyways....all that to homemade granola bars were essential to me back then...when you're feeling so fatigued all the time it's hard to take care of yourself.  When your energy is that low, EVERYTHING feels exhausting, even making a sandwich so being able to make a tray of granola bars that I could eat off for the week was so awesome.  When we went gluten free this recipe hardly changed, I used gluten free oats, flax seed or puffed millet instead if wheat germ, rice chex instead of Cheerios...and either the Giradelli or Costco chocolate chips that are not made with dairy.  

When we were living in Dallas, our apartment would be really hot in the summer and I was making a batch of these granola bars and was loathing the idea of turning the oven on when I had an idea to just use a cookie scoop and plop scoops of dough on a tray and freeze them.  Like those Oris Spunkmier cookie dough plops I would sneak and eat from my mom's freezer!  Well, we all became obsessed!  So now that is what we do, regular granola bars in the cool months and cold granola bar balls/bites in the hotter months.  

I make this recipe so frequently now I don't measure the peanut butter so they are a little different every time but the recipe is essentially this:

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

1-1 1/2 cups natural peanut butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple sauce/coconut oil or other oil you have
1/2 cup raw honey
2 tsp pure vanilla 
3 cups gluten free oats (I get Bobs Red Mill on amazon subscribe and save)
1 cup puffed millet 
1/2 cup rice chex 
3/4 cups chocolate chips

You can also add in ground flax, ground almonds etc.... It's a great recipe to play around with to get the flavor and consistency you like.  My consistency also changes depending on if it's the top half if the peanut butter jar or bottom half! Lol!  I try to stir it good but doesn't matter it's always runny on top and dry in the bottom.  

Then either roll into bite size balls or use a cookie scoop and place on a parchment lined baking sheet or plate, cover with plastic wrap and freeze (or if you have a big Tupperware container that would work) the parchment paper keeps them from freezing into the tray and then you have to pry them off and it's annoying to do that.

Then.... Enjoy!  

I didn't plan to have that whole story to post a recipe but it is part of the story.  And as another side note, after going gluten free and dairy free, my endocrinologist had passed away and I moved again and had a new dr.  They tested my antibodies and said I didn't have hashimotos...although before I did.  It was weird and no one really thought about it but I now think that maybe I don't have antibodies because my body was healing from the gluten and dairy.  Celiac and autoimmune disease run in my family and although I never got tested for celiac, I react to gluten the same as my sister who is celiac.  At that time I had learned the tests weren't totally reliable and I just decided to test by elimination instead.  I had also read somewhere in my thyroid research that the cellular structure of gluten is very similar to that of our thyroid so if our body is reacting to gluten, it could cause an autoimmune attack on the thyroid.  

Fast forward 4 years later after going gluten free and 5 years dairy free, I feel better than I ever have in my life.  Even as a teenager I was exhausted, tired and never could get enough sleep.  Teachers hated me because I couldn't hardly keep my eyes open or sit up straight and showed up barely on time looking disheveled...I was just quiet and tired all the time!  Teachers took it personally even my art teacher didn't like me Bc I guess they thought it was an attitude problem but I was just suffering and not really understanding it.  The teacher of my best subject said to me as I walked in class one day "How do your parents even love you!" Rolled her eyes and walked away...

Anyways, now...having changed my diet over the last few years I can look back and see the difference in how unhealthy I always was and the slow recovery I've made in the past 4-5 years.  The only major noticeable difference right away going off gluten was my joint pain stopped, I thought I had fibromyalgia because I had pain every day and always somewhere  new, each day I'd wake up and some random part of my body would just hurt all day.  I also couldn't braid my daughters hair and it was becoming more and more painful to open small containers or unscrew anything.  My fingers would lock up and throb.  That all stopped pretty quickly after gong completely gluten free.  But the thyroid health I can now say is so much better too!  I was diagnosed with Hashimotos before I changed my diet now I never have antibodies in my blood work anymore so technically I don't have hashimotos now....although I was told once you have it you have it forever so maybe it could flare up again...all I know is since being off gluten 100% for a time I no longer have thyroid antibodies and currently haven't been on any thyroid medication for probably 2 years. I was on a VERY high dose of thyroid medication, But I started getting symptoms of hyperthyroidism and had to keep cutting back more and more to avoid those hyper the point where I couldn't even have a sliver of a dose without feeling irritated, racing heart and I just stopped taking it all together and have continued to feel good and have my lab work look good. Lab work is great but at the end of the day it's how you feel that matters.  I know lab work can look fine and a person can be suffering greatly because that was me from age 15-26 taking 25 mg levothyroxine and bring told "yep your good!"

So as of now, my lab work is fine but most importantly I feel my best and I'm realizing that is a few years into my diet changes and my body has had time to heal.  Now I'm still a mom with a toddler I still have tired days and I'm not some energizer bunny person, I have a chill personality.  I do notice though that I can have flareups if I'm not eating properly or managing stress well or putting too much on my plate...but for now, as long as I'm not eating too much sugar and balancing out carbs with protein, not saying yes to everything and running around too much, not worrying too much and just trying to make the moments count and be content, and teaching my kids to be content, that we don't have to have big plans all the time...we get into our own creative flow and living life at a slower pace than most, but feeling a lot healthier and balanced and I don't feel like I'm going to collapse when I have to stand in line, fall out of a chair sitting in a waiting room or like my arm might fall off from the exertion of reaching up into the cupboard to get out a glass.  I've learned and still learning to pace myself.  I'm naturally a people pleaser but I feel like just learning NOT to be that...has helped my health so much too along with being off gluten and dairy.  I don't have a perfectly healthy diet, I'm not a nutritionist, I eat potatoes and hamburgers and even though I looked into the vegan lifestyle when I went dairy free since I never really enjoyed being more in tune with my body I actually thrive on red meat particularly and feel my best when I'm eating it regularly over chicken/turkey.  So our gluten free dinners consist of normal meals like hamburgers and homemade french fries, tacos with either ground beef or pulled pork, pasta with ground beef and sometimes also some ground pork, fried rice with chicken and easy vegetarian nights we do a big sheet of roasted veggies like red potatoes, peppers, onions, broccoli wtc depending on what we have on hand and season it and just eat a huge plate full iof that.  We're a family with young kids, and easy go to dinners we all like and repeat those a lot and then try new things when we are up for it and have the time but between those staples and having these granola bars around has made being gluten free and dairy free so much easier without feeling like we're starving or spending tons of money or going over the top with effort because as you can now see, I didn't have the energy for things that required too much effort when we first changed our diet.

These Chocolate Chip Granola Bars are quick and easy to whip up and everyone likes them, whether you are gluten free or not, it's a great staple to have on hand. Even for an easy filling on the go breakfast, lunch or snack.  

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